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November 28, 2003
Why Was He There?

This business about Howard Dean's late brother has me wondering.

Active duty soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines are upset over being forced take part in a military repatriation ceremony today for remains believed to be those of the non-military brother of presidential candidate Howard Dean, the DRUDGE REPORT has learned.

"His brother will receive full military honors...flag over the coffin and all!" fumes one soldier, who asked not to be named.

Governor Dean is set to visit to the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC) and the repatriation of his brother to Hickam AFB, Hawaii.

The brother's remains were recovered in Laos by a JPAC recovery team this past month. JPAC's mission is to search, recover, and identify remains of US service members who were killed in previous wars.

During the Vietnam War, Dean's brother and an Australian friend treked into Laos as civilians -- and were captured by the Vietcong and killed.

JPAC was pressured to not only recover his brother's remains, but to bump Dean's recovery over numerous other MIA's who actually died fighting for their country, a well-placed military source tells the DRUDGE REPORT.

(Via the Drudge archives)

OK, I can understand the troops being unhappy about this. I'm none too thrilled by it myself. Military honors should be reserved for military personnel (or high-ranking government officials). But I have a question:

     What were those two guys doing over there?

I can think of only three types of civilians (other than the press) who might have gone to Laos in 1974:

  • aid workers, akin to the Red Cross or CARE,
  • sympathizers/supporters of the North Vietnam (read: communist) regime, akin to "Hanoi Jane" Fonda
  • drug traffickers.
Am I missing something here? Someone please clue me in.

UPDATE, 3Dec03: I have since been clued in. Apparently, he was there as a "adventure tourist." Which leads to the question, why would anyone think tourism in what was (for all intents and purposes) a war zone would be a good idea?

Posted by Russ at 02:10 PM, November 28, 2003 in News & Politics

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You're not missing a thing, Russ.

Of course, to that list you could have added "Intellegence Agent" but that would probably have been a stretch.

So here's another question: If he was military at the time, and he was over in Laos as a civilian, was he AWOL? Had he deserted? If he was a deserter, why is he being brought back with honors? Some sort of sordid pay-back to his rat-father, John Dean, for his (sanitized, public) role in Watergate?

This opens up a bushel of questions. And other than you, I see no one asking them.

Posted by: Mamamontezz at November 30, 2003 12:10 PM

The young Mr. Charles Dean was out for an adventure. He was not ever in the service nor was he working for the Agency. Drudge is incorrect on this point, Dean and Neil Sharman were captured by Pathet Lao forces and not Vietcong. If you want more in-depth information, check the POW Network's bio: http://www.pownetwork.org/bios/d/d609.htm

Jennifer Martinez sends

Posted by: Jennifer Martinez at December 3, 2003 05:38 PM

I am the best buddy of Neil Sharman. After reading the POW chatter for some months now, I have now made up my mind as best I can, about why Neil and Charlie were "in there". Neil was an Australian larikin, a journalist travelling only on a wild adventure, camera in hand working his way from Darwin, Australia (where he met Charlie Dean.)His dream was to travel to SEA, Nepal, Middle East to meet up with me in London in the June of 1975. He never got to London, and I miss him dearly. His sense of humour, his energy, and his love of living on the edge. As best I know, He was not a spook (read spy), nor was he recruited by the military, just a friend who was out for some adventure. He and others Aussies like him (me)seeked to live on the the edge. It just happens that I made it through my youth and he did not. He was just in the wrong place at the wrong time, in a place that understandably had no sense of humor, no youth culture, no sense of adventure - where the very fabic of society was only about the ravages of war, holding on to politcial power, survival and being very suspicious of red haired larrikin journalists travelling down the Mekong with a camera. Just by happenstance, Neil met up with an American whose father was connected by friendship to another "Dean" (John Dean was the US Ambassador to Laos at the time - no relation to Charlie I think),and others who were operationally involved in Laos and the Vietnam war at the time.

By finding their remains, the good thing is, Neil is back, his family (still greiving) and I (to a lesser extent)have some closure of sorts.

If anyone can give me a plausible and verifyable reason why they think Neil and Charlie were spies, I would like to hear from them.


Posted by: Alex at January 1, 2004 07:44 PM

I read the comments on Dean and Sharman having been spies etc with rising consternation and anger. It's just too bizarre for words. I knew Neil Sharman at the time that he left on his journey - we were both journalists at the Northern Territory News in Darwin. Descriptions of Neil "the larrikin" are probably right enough and I remember him leaving sort of precipitously without a lot of preparation or forethought. In the office, at the NT News, we were a little mystified by his sudden departure but not really too surprised because it was the sort of thing Neil could be expected to do. But none of that even remotely justifies tieing him into some kind of spook expedition! He was, indeed, just a young man on an adventure of a lifetime who was unlucky enough to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Dean was in Darwin from where he wanted to launch his journey into South East Asia and when he met Sharman,they hit it off and Sharman decided to join him. In true Neil Sharman style it was, no doubt, a spur of the moment decision.

Posted by: Neil Naessens at February 16, 2004 10:59 AM

Neil Naessens, What month did he leave NT?
BTW Neil's funeral is being held on 29th May in Sydney after his remains were identified and repatriated to Australia.

Please email me at klujin@bigpond.com


Posted by: Alex K at May 6, 2004 08:43 PM

Neil Naessens, What month did he leave NT?
BTW Neil's funeral is being held on 29th May in Sydney after his remains were identified and repatriated to Australia.

Please email me at klujin@bigpond.com


Posted by: Alex K at May 6, 2004 08:46 PM